Surgery helps young burn victim regrow hair

April 10, 2013 9:52:39 AM PDT
About 450,000 Americans are treated for burn injuries each year. Burns can be excruciatingly painful and disfiguring. Now, an innovative procedure is giving a little girl back something her burns took away.

She's an artist, a tutu collector, and a survivor. At three months old, Luci was abandoned at a Chinese orphanage. Her face and body severely burned. There was no explanation, just some cash and a letter.

"It was a note and it said thank you to the kind people and it gave her birthday," Tara Newton, Luci's mom, said.

Tara Newton flew to China and adopted Luci when she was four.

"It was just like, God said, 'There you go. That's why I put you on this earth,'" Tara explained.

Tara is also a burn survivor. A fireworks accident scorched her chest and face.

"Who else can mom a child with that kind of need beside someone who has been there and done that?" Tara said.

Luci needed major reconstructive surgery.

"The most obvious physical problem that she had was that she had no hair," Joseph Williams, MD, Chief of Plastic Surgery at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, said.

Dr. Joseph Williams placed balloon expanders beneath Luci's skin and used the little hair she did have to pull her hairline forward. Each week, he expanded the balloons a little more. After four months, about 60 percent of her scalp was covered with hair. One more round with the expanders could help cover the rest.

"I admire her more than anybody I know," Tara said.

The doctor says a hair transplant on the scalp would not work for Luci because her skin was so badly burned. Luci will likely have her next round of expansion in a year or so. Surgeons will also reconstruct her nose and perform a hair transplant on her eyebrows. Dr. Williams says he believes with the surgeries and make-up, Luci's burn scars will be significantly improved.